Buying from China?
thousands of people out there who believe they can buy cheap brand name electronics and textiles from the other side of the planet as easily as they go grocery shopping. Believe it or not. As far as I know (I should mention that I am not in this business myself so I'm no authority) the idea that you can always get the latest Nokia/Sony/Apple gadget cheap from China is just a dumb get-rich-quick myth that gets thousands of people scammed. There is no such thing as cheap branded electronics from China, but there are hundreds of scam sites feeding off this dumb myth. The chance that the one you found is real is practically zero, all other things being equal.
If you are
looking to do business in China (or anywhere else for that matter) you actually need to learn something about international trade, about the market you are entering, and especially how to make sure you get what you pay for. This is not necessarily easy, it is not something we do on this forum, and it is not something we can provide advice on.
What we can do is provide a forum for people to share experiences and opinions, and we can help you recognise common scams. But frankly, if you intend to start a business importing from China then this is something you really need to learn to do yourself. There are also plenty of companies you can hire to do this for you, which is probably the easiest way, here
are a few possibilities. Two forums that could be more appropriate for an aspiring internet trader is www.thewholesaleforums.co.uk
As for the common scams
you will find in China, the most popular is of course websites selling all kinds of brand name consumer electronics at below market prices. These are always fraudulent, and they operate on most B2B and auction sites. Here
was a small collection of them. You can find some pointers here
on how to recognise them. Some of them like to excuse themselves with that the goods got stuck in customs somewhere, or just send a fake Nike shoe regardless of what you order. Some will send non-working tracking numbers. The city of Putian, and the Fujian district, is somewhat infamous for fraud both in China and internationally. It's possible to find plenty of scam companies from this area, many of their websites advertise fake Nike shoes in combination with electronics.
these scammers go around spamming eBay traders who are usually the primary targets, some examples are here
All Chinese sites
selling all kinds of designer clothing will only deliver counterfeit items. Some of them will freely admit this, others will not. Many of these will also scam you, sometimes only depending on which salesperson you are talking to. These companies are operating outside of the law already so they have little incentive to actually deliver anything, and frankly it's a lot easier to just scam people. They know you can't really complain either way, as long as you realized the goods were fake. Trading in counterfeit items is after all not legal. You may get your items seized by customs and face legal action. Seeing the difference between a fake faker and a "real" one is often very difficult as the fakers use similar methods as the scammers to stay anonymous. Either way, I'm not personally interested in the difference, and I have no wish to assist people with this type of business. We have no way of knowing if people will try to pass these items off as authentic or not. We have a long list here
of sites suspected of being scams or selling fakes.
Many other types
of counterfeit items can also be found in China, e.g. memory chips, golf clubs, Ipods and mobile phones (often including models that have yet to be released). They will always claim that the quality is "AAA+" which can mean half of them are broken. If they claim that the items are authentic the price will often be thereafter as well, but you will still only receive fake junk. Don't expect them to honor any guarantees they give you unless you have the resources to hire a couple of Chinese lawyers to go after them. You really need to check them out so you know who you are dealing with, see above.
be mentioned that there are a few legitimate companies selling refurbished electronics from China. These can be cheap, but for good reasons, and there might be quality issues that you need some proper commercial due diligence to deal with. And this article mostly applies to mainland China, Hong Kong is a different story.
Another type of
scam that is quite common in many places in China is sometimes known as the "Guilin scam". The general idea is that they make a large order with a foreign company, and invite them to China to sign the contract. The victim is then expected to pay for various gifts, hotel bills, upfront fees (notary fees) etc... before the contract can be signed. It is not common Chinese business practice to insist on a personal meeting in China, nor are notary fees, both of these should be considered red flags. For more information on this type of fraud please read here:
Chinese Fake Contract Import/Export "Guilin" Scam
fact is, beyond the obvious scammers and counterfeiters, there is no easy way to check out a Chinese company unless you speak Chinese. Even real Chinese companies will often use Western Union or MoneyGram for smaller payments, and use free email addresses, for example. Scammers (and counterfeiters) will invariably only offer WU, MG and a personal bank account for payment methods, some also have PayPal. Real companies should have a company bank account and will also accept L/C. But there are exceptions to this, and these complexities of international trade is not something we are qualified to enlighten you on.
money lost to fraud in China is very difficult, just like anywhere else. You would need to report it in person to the police there, or hire a legal representative, which won't be worth it unless you lost more than at least a few thousand dollars. Here
you can find some advice from a Chinese lawyer. If you paid by credit card, contact your credit card company to see if you can do a chargeback. You may be able to get refunded through PayPal if you file a dispute with them, or if you paid PayPal with a credit card you may also be able to do a chargeback.
like TradeKey.com, Alibaba.com, EC21.com all have some sort of paid members who are verified in various ways. For your own safety you should not assume that this means anything at all, especially if they joined the site very recently. And especially if they are selling cheap branded electronics, there is always very good reason to be suspicious as it's not unusual for scammers to be paid members on these sites. If you read the terms & conditions, disclaimers etc... on the sites you will most likely find that they do not make any guarantees that a paid member is legitimate or supplies authentic products. If you intend to start a business it can be a good idea to start reading the fine print. The practice of phishing is also not unheard of, you have to be sure you are dealing with the real company and not some scammer who stole their password.
For more information the following sites may be of interest to you:
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